Everyone’s seen good content. Everyone’s seen bad content. No one’s seeing thin content, least of all your target audience… and there’s a reason for that.
Here’s the skinny on thin content: It’s that blurry line between getting your brand in the limelight and watching it fade into obscurity. In other words, it’s a concept no brand or content creator can afford to ignore.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore what makes some content “thin”, how that impacts your SEO, and actionable solutions to undo the damage.
- Thin content is content that adds minimal value to readers’ experience, failing to address user needs comprehensively.
- Common forms of thin content include automatically generated articles, affiliate pages without valuable information, and low-quality guest posts.
- Google prioritizes user experience and comprehensiveness, hence disfavoring thin content to maintain the quality of search results.
- Google prefers in-depth, authoritative, and trustworthy content, with short, superficial articles being less favored.
- Websites with thin content can suffer decreased search rankings, risking penalties from Google, eroding trust and credibility, and reducing user engagement.
- From an SEO perspective, thin content leads to decreased organic traffic, wastes crawl budgets allocated by search engines, and results in poor link-building opportunities.
- To identify thin content, perform manual audits, analyze website data via tools like Google Analytics, and use SEO tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs.
- Solutions for thin content include revising or removing weak content, merging related content, enhancing user experience with visual aids, responsibly blending AI with human creativity, and prioritizing quality over quantity.
What exactly is Thin Content?
Thin content is essentially online content that adds little or no
tangible value to readers’ experience.
Think of going to a restaurant expecting a sumptuous meal and receiving… an empty plate with a sprig of parsley.
It’s important to remember that thin content isn’t just “short” content. It’s content that fails to address the needs or questions of the user comprehensively, whether that means being too superficial, off-topic, or simply duplicated from elsewhere. Thin content misses the mark.
Let’s talk about some of its common avatars:
|Type of Content||Description||Real-World Impact|
|Automatically produced content||Articles generated through tools or software, usually very fast and without much improvement.||Content like this is often riddled with errors, lacks coherence, and misses the human touch, resulting in a generic (and often nonsensical) piece that hardly provides anyone with any value.|
|Affiliate pages||A dedicated digital space that promotes specific products or services in the hope of earning commission on resulting sales or actions.||Many businesses will use affiliate links to generate revenue, and that’s OK! However, problems arise when a page’s sole purpose is to push these links. If there’s no supplemental information or added insight accompanying these links, the page risks being deemed thin.*|
|Low-quality guest posts||An article or piece of content written by an individual who isn’t a regular contributor. This piece gets published on another person’s website to reach a broader audience and share expertise.||Created with the sole aim of building links rather than delivering value, some guest posts fall flat with generic insights, lack of depth, and sometimes even factual inaccuracy. They’re less about enlightening the reader and more about ticking a box in the SEO checklist. Not good.|
*(Please note, however, that not all affiliate pages are culprits; many provide valuable reviews or insights that genuinely benefit readers.)
Why does Google frown upon thin content?
Google is basically the ultimate librarian of the digital world. Its primary goal? Ensuring users find the exact book (or in this case, content) they’re looking for. Now, if the library is filled with books that have fancy covers but lack substance inside, users will get frustrated. This is the predicament Google faces with thin content.
Securing the coveted top spot on Google’s search results is the modern-day equivalent of the gold rush. Every content writer, marketer, and brand dreams of their content shining bright on that first page.
But when content is produced merely as a digital placeholder, it compromises the searcher’s user experience. Google, ever the vigilant librarian, will have its beady eye on the thin content dilemma and watch it unfold. Determined to safeguard user experience, they carry out rigorous checks and measures. As a result, their algorithm has gradually reduced the visibility of low-quality, thin content.
Here are five key reasons why Google has started giving the cold shoulder to thin content…
- Comprehensive content is on the rise
Google’s algorithms have evolved, and they now prioritize in-depth, well-researched content over superficial pieces. The focus has shifted from merely filling up web pages to creating meaningful content that resonates with and educates the reader.
- E-E-A-T guidelines are the way to go
This is an acronym (standing for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) that every SEO professional should live and breathe by now. Google values content that provides a great user experience, exudes expertise, demonstrates subject authority, and can be trusted. Thin content, by its nature, struggles to meet these criteria.
- 300-500 word articles are out
Once the golden standard, shorter blogs are now officially taking a back seat. This isn’t to say long content always equates to quality, but comprehensive articles that explore every inch of the subject often fare better. To 10x your own content, check out our guide here.
- High bounce rates are giving you away
Users clicking on a link only to quickly return to the search results is a clear indication of dissatisfaction. Thin content often leads to high bounce rates, which in turn signals search engines that the content may not be fulfilling user intent.
- Mismatched search intent
Thin content often fails to match the intent of the searcher. Be they looking for solutions, information, or to buy a specific product, they want content that aligns with their needs. When content misses this mark, its chances of ranking well diminish significantly.
The consequences of thin content on businesses
If you happen to helm the roles of a VP of Marketing, Content Director, or even the daunting seat of a CEO, the implications of thin content are crucial, widespread, and often under-realized.
Let’s fix that. Below are the four main ailments your content marketing efforts might be suffering from…
- Decline in rankings
No one dreams of launching their shiny, new, beloved product, only to find that it’s been hidden in the back aisle of the store behind competitors. But that’s the tragic destiny of a website plagued by thin content.
The reality is this: Google isn’t shy about relegating thin sites to the abyss of its search results. This reduction in search ranking not only minimizes the company’s visibility but directly impacts organic traffic, squeezing the potential audience funnel into a narrow stream.
Dwindling search rankings may seem like a mild setback until Google decides to wield its punitive hammer. Active penalization of sites teeming with thin content isn’t just a momentary slip — it’s an echoing repercussion that makes regaining past glory a task as monumental as scaling Everest without gear.
The aftermath? Even after publishing tons of quality content, recovery becomes agonizingly slow, and in some cases, almost unreachable.
- Lost credibility
Businesses thrive not only on visibility but also on the perceived value they offer. Continually doling out insipid, low-value content shatters brand image faster than a porcelain vase hitting concrete, eroding the foundation of trust and brand loyalty you worked so hard to build.
- Decreased user engagement
Thin content, apart from being a blip on Google’s radar, also fails the human test. It fails to launch. Disinterested readers quickly exit, inflating bounce rates and sending a blazing flare to Google about the paltriness of the content, reinforcing the downward spiral in rankings.
Thin content and SEO: A recipe for disaster
From an SEO standpoint, publishing thin content is the equivalent of shooting oneself in the foot — and then some. Here’s why:
Decreased organic traffic
Picture the scene: There’s this clothing brand you love, and there are stores on the busiest streets all throughout the city. The fabric quality starts to flag, there are fewer stores now, only in the less desirable areas. Within a few months, you can only find these stores on the outskirts of town. Suddenly you’re doubting if you even want to shop there.
That’s the predicament of websites marred by thin content in the vast cityscape of the web. With diminished search rankings, organic footfall dwindles—and this is the lifeblood of digital conversions. The end result? A massive dent in potential conversions and revenue streams.
Wasted crawl budget
In the digital world, search engines — with Google leading the charge — allocate a metaphorical budget to ‘crawl’ or scan your website. When a lion’s share of this site is populated by thin content, it’s a giant red flag. This squanders the search engine’s resources, signaling it to lessen its visits — a move that further sidelines your content from the SEO limelight.
Poor link-building opportunities
Backlinks are hugely coveted because they are crucial for survival and growth. They are the nods of approval from high-authority domains, vouching for the value your content offers. But thin content? It’s not attracting anyone. It struggles to magnetize links at all, let alone from domains that matter. This will deprive your content of the SEO juice it critically needs, keeping it far, far away from potential readers and customers.
How to identify thin content
The war against subpar content begins by recognizing the enemy in its myriad forms. So how do you spot it?
Let’s start with the basics. Become a visitor on your own website. Wander through your pages, scroll deep into your articles, and introspect. Do they live up to the promise they made in their headlines? Or do they leave a lingering sense of dissatisfaction and unanswered queries? The more holistic your content, the more questions it should be able to preempt and address.
Your website’s data can be a revealing mirror. Google Analytics, when observed closely, can unmask pages that might be letting your users down. High bounce rates and low time-on-site metrics, for instance, can often point towards content that fails to engage or resonate with the audience.
Analytics not your strong suit? Check out ’15 Content Engagement Metrics Every Team Should Know’ here.
Platforms like SEMrush and Ahrefs shine a light on pages that may be underperforming in terms of backlinks or organic traffic. Indicators like these serve as hints, guiding you towards content that may need a second look or even a complete overhaul.
Fixing the thin content conundrum
Transforming thin content into substantial, value-driven content is a commitment but worth every ounce of effort. Once you’ve discovered the culprits, the next step is rehabilitation.
Thankfully, with the right strategies, you can transform even the most lackluster content into engaging narratives. Here’s how:
Revamp or remove
It’s decision time. Some content can be resurrected with added insights, fresh perspectives, and updated data. But some might be too far gone, offering negligible value. For the latter, it’s often wiser to bid adieu. Remember, every content piece should either inform, entertain, or inspire. If it doesn’t, it’s simply taking up digital space.
Diversity is great, but not when it leads to scattered, repetitive content. If you notice multiple thin pages circling the same topic, it’s a golden opportunity to unite them. Create a singular, comprehensive resource that covers the topic exhaustively, providing a one-stop solution for readers.
Enhance user experience
Visual aids are content’s best friends. Spice up your text with relevant images, infographics, tables, and charts. These additions don’t just beautify — they also simplify complex topics, cater to varied user preferences, and make the content journey a more immersive experience.
Use AI responsibly
The allure of AI-produced content is undeniable, especially when scaling is a priority. But remember, AI should be an assistant, not the sole author. Blend AI efficiency with the nuance, judgment, and creativity of human expertise. This combination — reminiscent of the hybrid method — ensures your content remains both scalable and authentic.
Prioritize quality over quantity
The content world is saturated with a capital ‘S’. So, being discerning is a strength. Instead of flooding your audience with a barrage of mediocre articles, focus on delivering fewer, but meticulously crafted, pieces. As the saying goes, it’s quality — not quantity — that leaves an indelible mark.
Let’s wrap up
Thin content is an issue that organizations must actively combat, because these days, it’s easy for genuine expertise to be overshadowed by superficial fluff. And you can do better than that, right?
Ensure your content radiates in-depth knowledge, expertise, and trustworthiness, and your business will be set to not only enhance its SEO efforts but also solidify its position as a respected voice in your field.
How do I fix thin content on my website?
Start with a manual audit. Go to your site, identify shallow spots, and then either enrich, replace, or consolidate them. Quality over quantity always wins.
What is a manual action for thin content?
It’s Google’s gentle nudge, alerting you that some of your content isn’t quite up to par. Take it as a reminder to enhance or face the SEO consequences.
Why is thin content bad?
Thin content is like an appetizer without the main course—unsatisfying and leaves your audience hungry for more. This hurts your credibility, can relegate you to the depths of SERP, and damage business results.
Are thin content and duplicate content the same thing?
No. While thin content lacks substance, duplicate content simply replicates what’s already out there. Both are unwelcome guests in the SEO world.